University Of Tasmania
whole_StrubePaul1986_thesis.pdf (17.68 MB)

The physical science textbook since 1800 : a study of its language, structure and rhetorical style

Download (17.68 MB)
posted on 2023-05-27, 15:13 authored by Strube, Paul
Since the 19th century, when books for instruction in science became available in significant numbers, their place in the science curriculum has been contentious. The defenders of textbooks have tended to point out their informative or instructional role, generally failing to respond to criticisms of the quality of the text as a prose work. Recent concern with readability, and the place of reading in the science curriculum, has made more urgent the analysis of the textbook and its place in science education. This thesis examines physical science textbooks for answers to questions dealing with the language of science textbooks as it relates to the history and purpose of science education. It is based on the premise that such language can be characterised not only by structural factors (such as sentence length and vocabulary) but also by what the language attempts to achieve. The latter is dependent on the purposes for which the text is written, and these are shaped by contemporary beliefs about the nature of science and science education, the particular science written about, and the intended readers of the book. Science textbooks emerge as prose works with a history that has shaped their characteristics. The thesis explores the history of physical science texts since 1800, and uses that history to develop both a classification system for textbooks, and a framework against which to view the changing purposes of science textbook authors. It is based on a large collection of such textbooks published in Great Britain, Australia, and the United States. Textbook characteristics are explored using three levels of analysis. Level 1 is historical, placing the texts in a context of contemporary opinion on the purposes of science and science education. It uses that context to develop a first order classification of textbook types. Level 2 uses techniques from literary criticism (notably genre-theory and stylistics) and rhetoric (the nature of argument and exposition) to match the first order classification in Level I to established theoretical results. This results in a second order classification of greater depth and power. Level 3 examines the textbooks for prose structures which are designed to meet the purposes of providing explanations for phenomena and instructing. These two purposes allow a third order classification to be developed, which can then be used to make judgements about the language of the text and its suitability for meeting the varied purposes of science education. Such an analysis provides information about the development of the modern science text, uses past and present texts as mirrors of the long-standing debate about the place of the textbook in science education, and provides the classification and characterisation of textbooks needed for any further rhetorical consideration of the textbook as prose.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 1985 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Tasmania, 1986. Bibliography: leaves 342-378

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected